Saturday, July 1, 2017

Drip, Drip, Drip

Significant pieces of information have arisen in the past 36 hours concerning collusion between the Trump campaign, or intermediaries, and Russia.  Since we're limited by a paywall at the Wall Street Journal, the source of the initial scoop, we're relying on an intermediary ourselves to provide the gist and the import of these new developments.

Here's TPM's Josh Marshall outlining the Journal's reporting, with added information/ corroboration from British cybersecurity expert Matt Tait (which we're excerpting - please go to the TPM link for the full article):
As you may have heard, this evening The Wall Street Journal published a major follow-up to its story from Thursday which described the work of a GOP money man and oppo research guy, the late Peter W. Smith, who was trying to get hacked emails from Russia and held himself out to be in contact with disgraced Trump advisor Michael Flynn. On its face, the big new break in this follow-up story is a new document from Smith. The document is from what is described as a package of recruiting materials Smith was using to enlist cybersecurity talent in his operation. The document listed key officials in the Trump campaign. These were apparently people Smith claimed he was in touch with or working with, though precisely how or why they were mentioned is not entirely clear. 
Here’s the key passage from the Journal article …

Officials identified in the document include Steve Bannon, now chief strategist for President Donald Trump; Kellyanne Conway, former campaign manager and now White House counselor; Sam Clovis, a policy adviser to the Trump campaign and now a senior adviser at the Agriculture Department; and retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, who was a campaign adviser and briefly was national security adviser in the Trump administration.
What is also clear in the Journal article is that the source of the new information was almost certainly a British national and cybersecurity expert named Matt Tait. I would go through why this seems clear. But about an hour after the Journal article was published, Tait himself followed up with what I would say is the big piece of the night in the Lawfare blog. 
Tait provides a much more detailed first-person account of his dealings with Smith. You’ll want to read it yourself. But the gist is that he’s a cybersecurity expert, he got press attention with some online analysis he did about the DNC hacking. He later got contacted by Smith – apparently because Smith was looking for someone to authenticate purported, hacked Clinton emails he’d been offered. Tait didn’t at first know just what Smith was after or who he was. But once he got into a conversation with Smith and found out someone was offering him the Clinton emails, he wanted to know more. 
One critical part of the story is that Tait never saw the purported emails, genuine or not. So he is not in a position to say what they were or who was offering them to Smith. 
The critical points Tait reveals are these. 1) That in his conversations with Smith and his associates it was clear that they did not care if the sources of the emails were Russian intelligence officers or if the emails had been hacked by Russian intelligence. They were entirely indifferent to this reality. They didn’t care. 2) Smith discussed what seemed to be highly detailed and confidential information about the inner workings of the Trump campaign, details that made Tait think that Smith wasn’t just some name dropper freelancing but actually had deep ties into the campaign and especially with Mike Flynn.  (our emphasis)
Marshall's article contains a number of revealing quotes from Tait; we would encourage you to go to Tait's Lawfare article here to get the full flavor of his account.

Also, while the octogenarian Smith died hours after the Journal spoke to him (hmmm), Smith's associate John Szobocsan is -- at the moment -- alive and is presumably on Robert Mueller's radar, if not under some form of protection.

These drips are getting bigger and closer together all the time.

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